Hobbled by knee problems and unable to secure an NBA contract for the 2012-2013 season, Tracy McGrady has signed a one-year, $1 million contract to play for the Qingdao Eagles of the Chinese Basketball Association, The Wall Street Journal reports.
While McGrady was the NBA’s highest-earning player during the 2009-2010 season, raking in a cool $22.5 million, he made just $1.3 million last year, the league’s minimum salary for veterans.
On his Facebook page and personal website Wednesday, McGrady emotionally acknowledged that after 15 seasons (he comes from the old breed of straight-to-the-NBA high schoolers), his time in the league has come to an end.
“There are times in life that a new road presents itself, and it appears this time has come for me now,” noted McGrady. “I am excited to play for Qingdao Eagles in China. I have been to China several times in the last few years and I love the people and the country.”
McGrady received looks this offseason from the Knicks and Spurs, according to Yahoo Sports, but neither franchise could offer the onetime star a roster spot, especially after he only mustered up 5.3 PPG in 16 minutes per game for the Hawks last season.
In China, McGrady, known to adoring fans as “T-Mac,” will receive another chance to recapture the fame he once enjoyed as high-flying Magic and Rocket. American NBA talents have been known to fill the scoring sheet on the Chinese mainland, and McGrady will already be known to legions of Chinese fans who followed him during his dominant years on the Rockets with Chinese superstar Yao Ming.
China, in particular, presents an opportunity for aging NBA stars. Not only can they reclaim superstardom and receive lucrative contracts they wouldn’t see in North America, but they can also create and grow a brand in the world’s top emerging economy, with a rabid fanbase that devours NBA action and American stars.
Decamping stars, however, must be wary of the challenges that come with uprooting their lives and moving to a foreign land. The transition hasn’t always been smooth for American talent in China, but McGrady’s club promises to change that. They’re lavishing him with offers of a five-star suite or a high-end condo, according to China Daily. As Stephon Marbury knows all too well, however, sugar-laced promises by CBA owners aren’t always what they seem to be.
Now, here are five other ex-NBA stars who have played basketball in China.